Bloggin’ Banat

two arab-american chicks takin’ over the blogosphere

Conan O’Brien is My Homeboy January 21, 2010

On Friday, January 22, 2010 Conan O’Brien will sign off as the host of the Tonight Show.  It’s weird to even write those words because Conan has been at the helm of the Tonight Show for only seven months.  Seven months!  On June 1, 2009 Conan made the trek from New York City, where he hosted Late Night for 16 years, to Los Angeles to take on the position he had always dreamed about having and desired.  Sadly, his job as host of the Tonight Show has come to a quick and bitter end in what many are calling one of the biggest television debacles in history.  For this Conan fan, and millions of others, it’s one huge tragedy.  On the flip side, however, this anger and bitterness has provided some of the best comedy from Conan since his Late Night days.

Three weeks ago, I wasn’t surprised when I read that NBC was planning to cancel The Jay Leno Show at 10 pm.  It had been a horrible idea from the start.  To put on what is essentially a late night talk show during prime time to save money on production costs just didn’t make sense.  But to be honest, I couldn’t have cared less about the production costs for NBC or why the network executives decided to place Jay Leno at 10 pm.  I was, however, very pissed.  I was upset because for 16 years, Conan O’Brien followed Jay Leno and his Tonight Show without complaint.  Then, when it was Conan’s time to be the top dog as host of the Tonight Show, he found out that he would be following Leno’s lead yet again.  Yet, even on his last taping of Late Night, Conan was gracious towards Leno and expressed his thanks.  While I wasn’t surprised that Leno’s show tanked due to low ratings, I was shocked to find out that the NBC execs were planning to move Leno back at 11:35 for a half hour show and move the Tonight Show to 12:05.  It was such a preposterous idea that I thought for sure it was just some moron making up a rumor. But within a day after the initial reports came out, it was confirmed by the NBC execs, who indeed are morons, that it was all true.  The question that immediately came to mind was, “Why the hell would you offer a guy, who agreed to step down as host of the Tonight Show five years earlier and who then failed miserably on a new show, another chance at 11:35 and bump the Tonight Show to 12:05?!” It just didn’t make any sense at all.  A day went by before Conan himself jokingly addressed the issue on his show.  I think he and his staff found out about the whole situation through TMZ, of all places.  And so here we are two weeks later in what is Conan’s last week as host of the Tonight Show. To add salt to the wound, it’ll be Leno who’ll be taking the reigns of the Tonight Show once again.

What has been crazy wonderful about this whole messed up situation, the silver lining if you will, has been the overwhelming show of support by Conan’s fans, the ribbing coming from other late night talk show hosts towards Leno and Conan’s own shredding of NBC and Leno on his show.  Why, you may ask, are people overwhelmingly on Team Conan?  Well, to put it simply, because Conan got shafted by the NBC execs (‘The Man’) and Leno (who didn’t have the class to just leave the network and go somewhere else when his show got canceled).  You see, Conan had enough of being pushed around. Being asked to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate Leno for his half hour show crossed the line.  So on January 12th, after days of speculation as to what was Conan’s official position on the whole screwed up situation, he issued a statement saying that he would not participate in the “destruction” of the Tonight Show by having it moved to 12:05.  His statement was fantastically awesome.  Conan laid it all out there.  You can read the statement for yourself in it’s entirety here.

I don’t know how anyone, after reading his statement, cannot see what a classy guy he is and not be on his side. As soon as that statement went out, fans mobilized on Twitter and formed groups and fan pages on Facebook expressing their support. The one with the largest following on Facebook has been the “I’m with COCO” page started by artist Mike Mitchell.  I, of course, became a fan of this page.  Mike’s campaign-like image of Conan has become the symbol of the pro-Conan movement.  Many variations of the image have also been made.  You can only imagine my delight when I came across one with a Palestinian flag in the background; made by a non-Arab no less.  Just awesome!  In addition to finding this wonderful image on this page (which apparently Arab pop singer Carole Samaha finds amazing.  She, or someone claiming to be her with her picture, posted a comment in that regard to this image), I’ve also become Facebook friends with designer Isaac Mizrahi.  No joke.  He’s apparently a big Conan fan as well and said that any fan of Conan’s is a friend of his.  He asked people to friend him on his private account so that we all could “network.”  So I figured, why not?  He totally accepted me right away.  Isn’t it great how Conan is bringing all these people together? Ha!

Not only have fans showed their support online, but through the “I’m with COCO” page, rallies were organized to show support for Conan and anger towards NBC and Leno.  On Monday, January 18th hundreds, if not thousands of fans, took to the streets and held rallies in New York City, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles.  The largest one took place in LA at the Universal Studios lot where Conan tapes the Tonight Show. From the videos on Youtube, pictures and accounts of the fans who attended, it looked like it was an exhilarating, heartwarming experience that was truly epic.  Hundreds showed up and stayed during what was a torrential downpour in LA.  Conan’s staff brought out doughnuts and coffee for the supporters in the morning.  Many staffers and writers also came out amongst the crowd to show their appreciation. And then to the pure delight of the fans, Conan himself came out, without security guards or an entourage, and ran towards his fans to greet them. He quickly mingled with the fans and ran towards his studio where everyone followed.  Pizza from Conan and the staff was distributed for those who were there.  Conan later mentioned his appreciation for the rallies and showed footage on his show that evening.  I ask you, is there any celebrity out there who would have this kind of dedication and devotion from his fans and one who would show this much gratitude in return? I can’t think of anyone.

It angers me now to read what the haters are saying about Conan’s 45 million dollar settlement with NBC. That he shouldn’t be complaining due to the large payout he’ll be getting.  First of all, yes, it’s a lot of money.  But 12 million dollars from that settlement goes to Conan’s loyal staff that followed him from New York to LA. He fought hard for that.  Not only that, but he is also supplementing the severance for his staff with his own money.  Again, it shows what a classy guy he really is.  Second, his fans know that for Conan, it’s not about the money.  Like he said in his statement, he was offered more lucrative offers in the past but turned them down. He turned them down because he just wanted to host the Tonight Show.  So now that he’s getting screwed by NBC, he absolutely should fight for all he can get. Let’s face it, if it was any one of us getting screwed over by our bosses, we would do the same thing if we could.  Third, in the couple of shows immediately after issuing his statement, Conan’s pain clearly showed and it was sad to see.   But, like he also said in his statement, no one should feel sorry for him.  He’s an extremely lucky guy.  To be honest, it’s me and the other fans I feel sorry for.  Finally, acknowledging that there are far more serious and worse things going on in the world, he’s been taking the time out of his show to bring attention to the disaster in Haiti. I don’t see Leno doing that.

You may be wondering why I would care so much (yes, it is just entertainment.  But I can be just as passionate about it as I am about other things). Why am I such a huge fan? It’s because one night, twelve years ago, I happened to come across a sketch on this show I’d never heard of that made me laugh out loud. I was in college then and was able for the first time to stay up late enough to watch this show with a host I knew nothing about.  After that night, I made sure to watch it again the following night and, before I knew it, I was hooked.  It wasn’t just one thing that I liked about Conan; there were many things.  He’s funny, nice, sincere, creative and a class act.  But above all else, his comedy simply made me laugh my ass off.  Soon, I was contributing to a fan newsletter and became a hardcore fan.  Over the years I obsessively watched Late Night dreaming of the day I could attend a live taping.  My dream finally came true a year ago when I attended a taping a month before his final Late Night show.  I’m so grateful I had that opportunity.   It was literally an item that I could finally cross off on my bucket list.  It was epic for me.

I’m so sad that Conan will be off the air after tomorrow.  I’m sad that he’ll no longer be able to continue his dream of hosting the Tonight Show.  This conclusion has come so quickly that it hasn’t sunk in yet.  The period of time between Conan’s last day at Late Night and his first day hosting the Tonight Show wasn’t great for us fans. For a few months, there was no Conan for us to look forward to seeing at the end of the day.  However, we knew and were giddy with anticipation that he would soon be back on a bigger and brighter stage as host of the Tonight Show.  Now,  there’s an uncomfortable uncertainty as to what he will do or where he will end up.  According to the reports on his settlement with NBC, he can be back on the air as soon as September.  God, I certainly hope so.  I can’t wait for the day when Conan will once again be back on television and into our homes to relieve the stresses of the day with his humor before we go to bed.  Like the Conan faithful have been saying since he made his decision to leave the Tonight Show, ‘wherever Conan goes, I will follow’…because he’s my homeboy.

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Turning 30 is Like Running Against the Clock January 9, 2010

This was originally posted on Kabobfest.

It must have been a coincidence.  I happened to come across a television show, a movie and a conversation with a friend all having to do with being female, being thirtyish and having something missing or looking for something in life.  It was like God was trying to tell me something.

A couple of weeks ago I was watching episodes of Ally McBeal on DVD.  Season 4 to be exact.  It was a show that I used to watch back in the late nineties (seems so long ago now) which I really enjoyed.  The ongoing theme of the show was that Ally McBeal, a successful lawyer, was always searching for love…for the guy.  I can’t quite remember if she ever did find the guy at the series end but she did come pretty close in season 4.  Anyway, Ally’s search wouldn’t be significant to me if it wasn’t for the fact that her age was always an issue in relevance to her pursuit of love.  I think she was 31 in season 4. Well, I haven’t found the guy yet either and I also happen to be 31.

Later, I rented and watched the film Julie & Julia about the true stories of Chef Julia Child and Julie Powell. Julie Powell is a married woman who was about to turn 30 and disliked her job.  So she decided to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in a year and blog about it. Since she’s an aspiring writer, it was an opportunity for her to do two things that she loved; cook and write. Well, her blog turned out to be a big hit and she’s now a published author. The movie is based on her book.  I identified with the age issue again and wanting to already be doing something I love career-wise but not having reached that point yet.

Then last week it all kind of came together when I went to visit a good friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in a long time. Among the various conversations we had, one was referencing Ally McBeal: the idea of us being in our thirties, having “big girl” jobs now and how it seemed like such a long ways away when we were in our teens. Yet, here we were.  We talked about some of the unhappy circumstances at our jobs that were uncannily similar.  We also discussed our ambitions for doing greater things that didn’t include sitting at a desk.

Regarding all of this, the most prominent factor for me is age.  Turning 30 was a big deal, and not in a good way, for Ally and Julie. It was also the same for me.  Being in my thirties, I now feel like I am running against the clock.  For example, as if being a single Arab girl at my age isn’t difficult enough, since the prime age for marriage is between 18-22 (people probably think there’s something ‘wrong’ with me), it also seems that all the good men around my age are already taken or previously married, which means they come with some sort of baggage.  Not only that, but I’m on the verge of what most people would perceive as spinster status.  I shudder at the thought.

Next comes the issue of work and what I really want to do with my life.  In college I decided to become a communications major because I figured it was the only rational way for an Arab Muslim girl like me to get into the entertainment industry.  Well, before I graduated, the second intifada came around and my focus went into a different direction. Now I still have that fierce desire to enter the entertainment world, as I did before I graduated, but I am waiting and hoping for an opportunity to knock on my door.  Again, my age being a factor, I feel like that window of opportunity is getting narrower and narrower minute by minute.

It’s not that I suddenly felt old when I turned 30.  Quite the contrary, I feel like I’m still in my early twenties and I act like I’m even younger sometimes.  But besides the fact that my biological clock is ticking away, I think the pressures I feel are societal.  And I’m not talking about finding love or pursuing a career I’ve dreamed about as being the societal pressures.  Those are things that I want.  It’s the aging factor that’s the problem. This pressure about age is not an internal concern but something that I believe society places on women.  Because let’s face it, do most guys go through all of this emotional crap? No, because they generally don’t face these problems.  For example, a man can choose the single life, never marry and be considered a cool cat like George Clooney.  And most women who enter and have success in the entertainment industry, like actresses for example, tend to be in their late teens and early twenties.  Women in their thirties are perceived to be on the verge of a decline in their career.  Even producers usually get their start right out of college.  There are always exceptions, of course.

Being in my thirties doesn’t suck. I just feel that my opportunities in life are diminishing as a result.  But I’m not giving up hope. My future outlook is like a candle. Sometimes it’s brightly lit and other times the light is so dim that it almost fades.  But, it never diminishes.  And I hope it doesn’t anytime soon. I guess I can look at Julia Child’s life as an example and see that she found love at 40 and soon thereafter pursued her passion of cooking as well as published her now classic French cookbook. I just hope I don’t have to wait that long cause turning 40 would be like dying.

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Palestinian Reality in Atlanta? June 16, 2009

Block PartyNo, definitely not.  In an absurd move, CBS has walled off an entire neighborhood in Atlanta to force the neighbors to spend time with each other.  It’s all for a new reality show tentatively called “Block Party.”

The image of the wall built for this show looks very similar to Israel’s apartheid wall in the West Bank.  Of course, life in Palestine, particularly in areas like, Gaza, Ni’lin and the Aida Refugee Camp is anything but a block party.

The details on the specifics of this show are not clear except that the families “will be trapped inside the 20′ maximum security-looking wall for about three weeks for a cash prize.”

I find it insulting to have an entertainment show with a premise built around a crippling and devastating reality faced by an entire population of Palestinians.  While these contestants will be confined behind this wall for three weeks and possibly end up with money for the sake of entertainment, Palestinians have been confined for years within Israel’s illegal wall with no end in sight.

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Brace Yourselves. Paris Hilton Is Coming to Dubai. June 2, 2009

paris-hiltonGod help us all. Paris Hilton is coming to the Arab world to look for a new BFF.  I thought my ears were deceiving me when I heard today that Paris will be going to Dubai to tape her show “Paris Hilton’s My New BFF”.  Sadly, my ears weren’t deceiving me.  It’s true.

Hilton’s reality show, if you can even call it that, first aired in the US on MTV and then a UK version soon followed.  The show’s premise is basically a search for a so-called new best friend for Hilton in which contestants go through a series of tests to see which one can best suit her lifestyle.

Later this month, the show will go to Dubai to film for about 17 days. This, of course, was only with the approval of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.  Is the financial crisis in Dubai really that bad?

The show’s contestants will comprise half of women who are Middle Eastern and the other half who are from other parts of the world who reside in Dubai.  According to co-producer Ish Entertainment, the show will be less racy than the US and UK versions. Basically, cursing, hoochy clothing and booze will be avoided.  Somehow, that doesn’t make the feeling of  nauseousness go away.

This will be Hilton’s first time in Dubai.  Producers intend to exploit that and tape footage of her reaction to her trip.

I’ve certainly never seen Paris’ show but just watching the previews for the upcoming US season is frightening.  The idea of Arab females competing to do whatever it takes to become Paris Hilton’s new BFF makes me cringe.  What’s even more frightening is the idea that this show will actually find an audience in the Middle East.  Yikes!

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Conan O’Brien’s Humorous Words Of Wisdom February 21, 2009

This post has absolutely nothing to do with the Arab or Muslim world. Well, there does happen to be a Muslim woman wearing hijab in the video. However, I happen to be a huge Conan O’Brien fan and I just watched his last episode of “Late Night.” (Any other Arab fans of “Late Night” out there ?  Or am I the only one?) Later this year Conan will be moving on and taking over the “Tonight Show” from Jay Leno. This, of course, is a great opportunity for Conan. He’ll have a bigger show and a bigger audience at an earlier time. But it was bittersweet seeing Conan sign off one last time as the host of “Late Night.”

Like many of his fans, I started watching Conan when I was in college and have been hooked ever since. Conan’s humor can be childish and weird but very funny. And he mentioned on his last show that that’s not going to change when he’s the host of the “Tonight Show.”  However, I’ve found out throughout the years that the humor he’s displayed on the show is an acquired taste. People either love him or hate him; and that’s if they’ve seen the show at all. There’s no question however that over the past fifteen years Conan has made “Late Night” his own and he’s had a legion of hardcore fans who’ve stuck with him; in good times and in bad. After more than ten years of watching the show (and being one of those hardcore fans), I had the privilege of finally attending a taping of “Late Night” just a few weeks ago. It was an absolute thrill and I can finally cross it off of my bucket list.

As I was perusing the internet today for anything related to Conan’s last show, I happened to come across a video of his popular Harvard Class Day commencement speech that he gave in 2000. For those who don’t know, Conan is a graduate of Harvard and the text of his speech has been posted and emailed many, many times over the past eight years. It’s classic because it not only displays Conan’s quirky sense of humor, but more importantly, he talks about the importance of taking the good and the bad in life, using his own successes and failures as examples. As cheesy as this is, I’ve gone back to read the speech whenever I’ve felt like a total loser or when my pride has been shattered. His humorous words of wisdom have always cheered me up.  As many times as I’ve read the speech, I’ve never seen the video until today. Therefore, I happily pass it along in hopes that you take something from it and even have a laugh or two.

Here’s hoping that Conan has even more success as the host of the “Tonight Show.”

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Israel Uses Song Competition To Falsely Portray Image of Peace February 20, 2009

niniawadIsrael’s propaganda machine never rests.  In the latest attempt to falsely put out a positive image, the Israel Broadcasting Authority has chosen a Palestinian and an Israeli to present a “song of peace” in the popular Eurovision song contest in Moscow.  The competition garners around 100 million television viewers each year.

Achinoam Nini, internationally known as Noa, and Miri Awad are the two singers chosen for the contest.  Nini is an Israeli singer well known in Europe who is of Yemeni heritage and grew up in New York.  Awad is a Palestinian actress and singer who grew up in Galilee and currently lives in Tel-Aviv.

The problem here of course is that even though Israel wants to present an image of peace, their policy of keeping a brutal occupation in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, their discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel and their recent election to make the anti-Arab Yisrael Beiteinu party the third most powerful in Israel proves otherwise.  This image of peace is a joke. The singers themselves may have good intentions in doing this but they shouldn’t use this competition, in which they represent the State of Israel, to “open some people’s minds”, as Nini says.  Such intentions could only have legitimacy if the artists did this on their own and without the government’s sponsorship.

Palestinian artists in Israel are certainly not happy with the singers for taking part in this endeavor.  They’ve signed a petition aimed at Nini and Awad that states  ” The Israeli government is sending the two of you to Moscow as part of its propaganda machine, which is trying to create the appearance of Jewish-Arab ‘coexistence’ under which it carries out the daily massacre of Palestinian civilians.”

Palestinian actor and director Mohammad Bakri, one of the signatories of the petition,  said “It’s not a big honor to represent Israel right now in the Eurovision. It’s a shame.”  Ain’t that the truth.  Israel shouldn’t be fooling anyone with this whole charade.

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Jimmy Carter, Jon Stewart and the Holy Land January 27, 2009

President Jimmy Carter appeared on the Daily Show last night to promote his new book “You Can Have Peace in the Holy Land: A Plan That Will Work.”  After stating the title, Jon Stewart asked the former president if this was his first foray into fiction.  Too funny.

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